Linebacker Target Perez Breaks Down Visit

Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) linebacker Caleb Perez officially visited Rutgers this weekend as a preferred walk-on target. Perez returned home Sunday and is close to a final decision with his recruitment.

To many programs, walk-ons are just bodies. To Rutgers and its fan base, however, walk-ons hold special meaning and that was made clear to Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) linebacker Caleb Perez on his weekend official visit.

Perez is one of the top Rutgers targets at the preferred walk-on level, and offered rave reviews of his visit as he nears a decision.

The message hammered home during his visit – Rutgers cares about its walk-ons.

"At first, I kind of thought of it as ‘oh a walk on spot, I don't know because that's risky,'" Perez said. "Once the whole weekend was carrying on, everyone was explaining to me that it's an essential part of a football program to have guys walk on. They end up becoming bigger aspects to the program a couple of years down the road. They can become starters. They can take the spots of scholarship guys."

Starting running back Paul James, the most visible player on the roster heading into the Big Ten, began as a preferred walk-on. The same can be said about three-year starting fullback Michael Burton and a list of Rutgers NFL players like Gary Brackett, Shaun O'Hara and Howard Barbieri.

Perez has not made a final decision, but is strongly considering a football career at Rutgers.

"It's not going to be easy," Perez said of the walk-on path. "I know that for a fact. Coach [Kyle] Flood was talking to me about how they need guys to help this team out to build up the program. I know that walk-on spots are a necessity in the program. It helped me a lot this weekend to figure out the importance of the walk-on deal."

Perez holds a preferred walk-on offer from UCF and a scholarship offer from Marist to round out his final three schools.

"Right now, I'm done with all of my visits and everything," he said. "I'm going to have to come up a decision once I get home in a couple of days or so. I'm going to look at all of my options and talk to my family and everything. I didn't commit [on my visit], but it's something I'll have to decide soon."

Rutgers already received one preferred walk-on commitment from the weekend – JR Reese. Reese and Perez both visited as preferred walk-on candidates, and received the same weekend experience as other prospects.

For Perez, it was his first trip to New York.

"I liked it a lot," he said. "It's something different compared to Florida weather, obviously, with the snow. I enjoyed the change. The campus is nice. It's very big. I liked the football team. Guys are cool. Everybody is there for each other. Going to New York City was very fun. It was the first time I've ever been to New York City, so that was something fun to do. They took us around everywhere. It was a fun weekend."

Preferred walk-on linebacker Darnell Davis Jr. was his host.

"He told me it's pretty east to get used to everything," Perez said. "The guys and everyone on the team are welcoming. He explained how summer would go with workouts and everything and how classes would go as well. He showed me around and I met a couple of his friends and a bunch of guys on the team. He was a good host this weekend."

Perez met individually with defensive coordinator Joe Rossi, who was formally promoted Friday night.

"We talked individually in a meeting, just me, him and my parents," Perez said. "We met and we talked about how he does things with the linebackers. I talked with the linebackers coach as well. He's a great coach. He knows what he's talking about and he knows what he's doing."

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